Taking Advantage of a Great Asset: Professional AssociationsBy Kathy Bornheimer
Membership and more importantly level of involvement in applicable professional associations is critical for Career Management/Progression. This article is elaboration on three concepts in The Street Smart Approach to Job Search; Directing Your Career; Some Assembly Required, The Other Side of Networking and Life-Long Learning.
Belonging to and being active in key Professional Associations can be viewed as the ultimate in multi-tasking. As a recruiter, career coach and hiring manager I always look at Association membership, then at what capacity as I evaluated the individual as a viable candidate. Drive, abilities and priorities are displayed in this component of the total person.
A report sited in BLR (Business &Legal Reports), 1/23/08 indicated that "Employees who are members of associations earn higher salaries, like their jobs better and are happier people than non-members". The report went into additional details as to their findings; however, conclusions were akin to the Chicken or the egg theory; success through involvement or involved because they're successful. I find that a somewhat moot point since the outcome is what's important.
Here are some key thoughts;
- Not belonging to Associations is one of first steps on the road to professional isolation!
- "But I don't have the time." People who are regular readers of my material with know my response to that: "Make the time". While work/life balance is necessary there are always options for this. You have to know what all of your options are.
- "My employer won't pay for membership or events/meetings; I can't afford it". The cold hard truth is that "You can't afford not to". If you're truly working for an employer who does not value their workforce, then change employers. Involvement in the right associations is one of the ways to do it.
- Consider 2-3 Associations; at least one with a national affiliation.
- Access to variety. Often in the demands of the day to day grind, people will work their way into a rut without knowing it. Getting out there with other people from other places (employer and geographically) will provide ideas, freshness and even needed diversion.
- Life-long learning the easy/fun way. Many associations offer programs and/or sponsor events. Many times these provide required CEUs for credits or to obtain/maintain credentials. Plus you're learning something!
- Being able to connect with individuals who can help you professionally in maintaining employment stability or career advancement.
- Chances for you to grow and stretch. If you feel that you're ready for leadership opportunities, here's the place to test it out or improve it. Strongly consider leadership roles in professional associations; committee or Board level.
- Gain the reputation of the Go to person; be accessible and willing to help others. Reciprocity goes along way if used correctly.
- You become interesting; personally and professionally.
Choosing the best groups to belong to takes a little work. Membership by default has a limited return on investment. How to choose:
- Ask around; this is a great way to practice networking if you're still a novice.
- Read the papers (local business or industry publications, professional journals, etc.).
- Attend those of interest to test the waters. Look at the topics presented, speakers, sponsoring group or type of attendee.
- Is the cost within your budget if you're self-paid? Keep in mind membership dues and meeting fees. Cost is time and money. If you're going into a leadership capacity you have to budget in 8-10 hours per month minimum of your time. As for money; it's often a tax deduction.
- This is not a life commitment. As things change you're affiliations will change; maintain that flexibility. Burnout or complacency are just as possible here as in the workplace.
Taking advantage of all of the resources afforded by being aligned with the right Associations will allow you to proceed in the quest for satisfying employment. You'll be able to achieve a strong social/professional network when needed, add variety in your life and expand yourself professionally/technically. You'll be maintaining your edge for employment stability while advancing economically. Learn to choose your resources well.